U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer urged the federal government to declare a public health emergency as a deadly, multidrug-resistant super fungus called Candida auris spreads across the state.
Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided New York with $6 million to combat the fungus, but its scope merits a public health emergency and the additional funding that comes with it.
“It [C. auris] can be everywhere; it can be on anything. Hospitals may have to rip out their ceilings and walls to have it removed,” the Senate minority leader said at a news conference on Sunday.
The fungus has infected 613 people across the country, including 319 in New York State, where two individuals have died, according to the most recent statistics released by the CDC on March 31. People with weak immune systems are particularly vulnerable to C. auris, which can cause blood infections, high fevers and death, according to the CDC.
Schumer said the fungus’ resistance to antifungal and antibiotic medicines makes it extremely hazardous. He said additional funding is needed to improve detection of C. auris, develop treatments for infections and increase public awareness about the outbreak. As precedent, Schumer cited the CDC’s decision to allocate $165 million in 2014 to help combat the Ebola outbreak.
“During Ebola, people were able to move in fast and do something about it because they declared an emergency,” Schumer said.
The CDC did not respond to requests for comment.
Funding from the federal agency has allowed New York to work with one CDC expert and two CDC fellows, according to Schumer. That comes as the CDC included New York as one of 10 emerging infections program sites, which are overseen by its Antibiotic Resistant threat team.